You Don’t Need to Date the Barista


My first cup of Starbucks coffee was during my first year of bible school in 2002. While driving to L.A. to spend a couple weeks working at a homeless outreach organization called The L.A. Dream Center we stopped by Albuquerque, New Mexico for fuel. Having just started drinking coffee that year, and loving it, Starbucks was always the chatter around the humble coffee pot.

My life changed that day. I don’t remember what drink I ordered, but I have a picture taken from a film camera of the moment, with my 135-pound frame wearing an oversized black jacket. I had hair back then too. I had luscious dirty blonde hair parted to one side like a good Midwest boy does. I’m being dramatic about the hair. It wasn’t luscious, but I’ll take the compliment if someone actually thought so.

Through the years I’ve gone to Starbucks a lot in whatever town around the country I ended up being. I’ve had hundreds of conversations, and at least a couple dozen potential love interests that started or passed through those Starbucks. I’m not one of those uncultured heathens that think Starbucks is awesome coffee. It’s good enough coffee. Take a stroll around Kansas City coffee shops or Europe to find great coffee.

Starbucks is like going to back to your parent’s house to visit. It’s not the best place you can think of to hang out, but it’s only great because it’s comfortable and full of nostalgia. Oh, and there are those two people called, “your parents” that you love who are there, but that’s not relevant to my point.

Over the years I have gathered a few tips on getting free stuff. The obvious one is to date a barista, but that’s a “gimme” and not very imaginative. That will not be on the list of tips but free drinks will probably be obtained that way again.

The Forgotten Shot

A double tall vanilla latte used to be my drink of choice. I’ve never had a sweet tooth but I still like the modest note of sweetness. Unless you are dating the barista she will charge you 80 cents for that extra shot.

On a side note, if you buy a pound of coffee at Starbucks and brew it yourself, each home brewed cup would be worth around 35 cents. That one shot of extra coffee costs more than two home brewed morning juices.

When going up to the counter and ordering your drink, just order a “tall vanilla latte”. They’ll ring you up then turn to give your cup to the barista on bar. You start walking away and then turn back to the front counter as if having an epiphany. “I ordered that double right?” We all have those absent-minded days after all. They’ll say, “no” obviously. Act like your day is ruined while reaching for your wallet. The barista isn’t going to want to go through the trouble of ringing you up for a silly 80-cent shot, and they don’t want to hold up the line if there is one.

More than likely they will tell you not to worry about it. Just like that you saved a hefty 80 cents. Don’t try that little trick too often at the same place or they’ll catch on. Nobody likes a mooch.

Stow Away

For this trick or borderline unethical act, you’ll need to have a Gold Card. Starbucks has a reward program where if you earn enough points by wasting your paycheck on coffee, you get a fancy gold gift card with your name on it. My card has printed on it, in proud black font, “Patrick Evenson, Member since 2006”. I’m kind of a big deal in the Starbucks world. One of the perks of the Gold Card is getting free refills on coffee and tea. Refilled usually cost 54 cents.

On days when I know I’ll be in the store for a couple hours doing work, I’ll brew my own 34-cent cup of coffee at home and fill a traveler mug with it. I’ll go into Starbucks and head directly to my seat. After an hour of being there working I’ll have finished my home brewed coffee. At that point I walk up to the counter like I’ve been there for hours, which I have, and order a refill. I get refills for free.

Other side note is if you bring in your own mug you get 10 cents off your drink.

Two Birds with One Stone

I’m not a Frappuccino guy, but most people are. I walk into the library Starbucks on the campus of Northwest and they look at me like I’m an alien when I order a shot-in-the-dark. This tip is for Frappuccino people.

In the scenario where you and a friend are going to both order a tall mocha Frappuccino, don’t. Instead order a venti mocha Frappuccino and ask for two tall cups.

One tall Frappuccino costs $3.95 while a venti Frappuccino costs $4.95. A tall drink holds 12-ounces, and a venti drink holds 24-ounces. If a venti Frappuccino that costs $4.95 holds as much as two $7.90 talls than split the venti. The barista while probably do it for you if you ask.